Last night, I woke up at 5:00am with a splitting migraine (one that I’m still recovering from as I write this review). As is usually the case with such things, all I can do is get up, take copious amounts of drugs, curl up in the fetal position, and lie as motionless as possible. Not too surprisingly, I’ve found that music also helps me through those unbearable times. Naturally, my listening choices tend towards the gentler, more atmospheric side of things, be it Vidna Obmana, Pan American, Bowery Electric, or in this case, Steve Roach’s Structures From Silence.
The title is a very apt description of the album’s overall feel; words like “soundscape,” “vast,” and “expansive” are all quite appropriate here. As with works like The Magnificent Void, Roach crafts an incredibly deep well of sound throughout the album (although Structures From Silence never becomes as dark or alien as that album). The album’s sonic palette feels quite minimal, but the sound never suffers for it, nor does it remain static. There’s a constant feel of gentle motion, as Roach slowly but surely crafts melodic soundscapes that are both highly emotive and quite delicate.
But the more I think about it, the more I’m not sure if the word “structures” is an accurate term to describe these compositions: it feels too constrictive and limiting. Rather, these compositions move and flow like giant pools of color, shifting at the same graceful pace as the landscape’s colors when the moon slowly moves over it. This is especially true when listening to “Quiet Friend” at night or in a lowlit room. The gentlest and warmest of the album’s three pieces, “Quiet Friend” wraps the listener in quivering waves of sound that take on the same bluish-purplish hues of album’s sleeve art.
With Structures From Silence, the term “aural wallpaper” is not an insult. In fact, it’s not far from the truth behind the album’s creation. While Roach was recording the album, he would often play the music while sleeping or engaged in other activities. This gave him the ability to become aware of the music on a more subconscious level. If you actively listen to Structures From Silence, you’ll quickly be distracted by something else. I can’t explain it, but by letting it sink into the background while doing something else — struggling with HTML code at work, reading a good book, or writhing in bed with a migraine — it has a way of coloring and suffusing that activity with added depth and color. Or, in the case of a migraine, comfort and relief.